Ozzie Jones’s production dazzles in just about every way a theater piece can.
When Kingsley Ibeneche and Sanchel Brown dance, or the radiant Candace Benson sings and skitters across the Horizon stage, none of the superlatives used so far are potent enough to express the joy, admiration, and emotion they generate. Jenn Rose’s choreography is exciting, but Ibeneche, Brown, and others take it beyond the parameters of dance to a celebration of human body and spirit.
Langston Hughes’s play gives the dance a context, and while you marvel at the leads’ physical dexterity and muscular control, you feel the essence of what Hughes’s script, updated since his 1967 death, is expressing.
African dance is the basis for Rose’s work, and the excitement of it electrifies the entire Horizon space, already decorated colorfully and evocatively by set designer Brian Dudkiewicz, visual artist Theodore A. Harris, and properties designer Jeanette Leh.
Ibeneche and Brown lead the BLACK NATIVITY troupe in moves that seem gravity and muscle-defying. Passion mixes with talent, so that the performances give extra weight to the first act story of Jesus’s birth at the inn in Bethlehem and a second act tale of a neighborhood congregation meeting just after the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. In this case, Jones’s physical production supersedes text and becomes a raison d’etre of its own.
Candace Benson, whether she is singing, moving joyfully and with infectious spirit, or acting a scene in which she is praying for her grandmother’s life, astounds with the depth and effectiveness of her presence. Angelica Jackson is a marvelous narrator and another who can sing, dance, and act in a manner that is at once effortless and affecting. Kudos also to Wil Brock III, Kayla Tarpley, Devon Eric Taylor, Adam Hoyak, Timotheus “Moe” Peay, and Nastassja Basset for their significant contributions to Jones’s lovely work.
Read more from Neals Paper >>> [Theatre Horizon, 401 DeKalb Street, Norristown, PA] November 12-December 13, 2015; theatrehorizon.org.